Happy Reopening, Statue of Liberty! We've Been Making a Big Deal Out of You Since 1885

In honor of $59 million worth of repairs following Superstorm Sandy, a look back at the initial excitement surrounding America's most famous statue.

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The Statue of Liberty reopens today, its grounds fully restored after $59 million worth of damage, caused by Superstorm Sandy, led to broken railings, docks, and paving stones, as well as damaged sewage pumps and electrical systems. 

Visitors will be able to arrive via ferry boats once again to tour the landmark, and a ceremony today for its reopening will include secretary of the interior Sally Jewell, New Jersey senator Robert Menendez, and New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Before its actual opening in 1886, it took a whole lot more than 8 months to get the statue ready for the public.

After a lengthy planning and construction process, the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York City aboard the French ship Isere in 1885. Crates filled with parts of the disassembled statue were unloaded onto the New York port with thousands in attendance, but getting the statue in place was a whole lot more difficult than one transatlantic boat ride. 

The statue's sculptor, Frédéric Bartholdi, built an initial model in 1870. In 1875, Bartholdi announced the project to the public, giving it the name "Liberty Enlightening the World." The French agreed to pay for the statue while the Americans agreed to finance its pedestal.

Ten years later, pedestal funding in New York was still short by the beginning of 1885, forcing construction to come to a stop. Groups from Boston and Philadelphia offered to pay the full cost of erecting the statue in return for relocating it to their cities, but Joseph Pulitzer, famed publisher of the New York World, was able to raise $100,000 ($2.3 million today) instead. The donations allowed construction to resume soon after Pulitzer's announcement and the fundraising goal was fully met that August.

Construction on the pedestal continued until April 1886. A ceremony of dedication was finally held for the Statue of Liberty on October 28 that year. 

The arrival of the statue, despite its lagging pedestal, was a cause for celebration; a long discussed new symbol for a nation finally arriving at its shores after years of waiting. That enthusiasm is clear in a wide range of print materials from the same time. Below, a collection of newspaper clippings, posters, and magazine illustrations that show the United States (New York in particular), excited for its new symbol of liberty. 

Library of Congress.

"New York - the torch of the Statue of "Liberty," as it will appear when completed, on Bedloe's Island." 1885. Courtesy

Library of Congress.

"3 illustations: 1. Official presentation of the Statue of "Liberty enlightening the world," Paris, July 4th, 1884 - 2. M. Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi [head and shoulders] - 3. Sectional view of statue, showing iron core and braces." 1885. Courtesy

Wikimedia Commons.

"Detail from Pedestal for Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty on Bedloe's Island, New York Harbor, drawn by W. P. Snyder and published in Harper's Weekly, June 6, 1885." Courtesy

Courtesy Library of Congress.

"Madam Girard Gyer [as] Bartholdi's statue presented by the republic of France to America : a new sensation, original by this lady : Liberty represented by the original Mme. Girard Gyer." 1885.

Library of Congress.

"Pedestal for Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty on Bedloe's Island, New York Harbor [and insert of head and shoulder portrait of Bartholdi]." 1885. Courtesy

The great Bartholdi statue, liberty enlightening the world: the gift of France to the American people Currier & Ives., 1885. Courtesy Library of Congress.

"...sheet music cover for the "American Collection" showing the Statue of Liberty, Indepencence Hall in Philadelphia, the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., a bust portrait of George Washington flanked by two American flags, and six cherubs labeled 'Agriculture' with a shock of wheat, 'Music' with a lyre, 'Poetry' with an owl, quill, and laurel crown, 'Commerce' wearing a winged crown and holding a caduceus, 'Art' holding a brush and palette, and 'Science' holding bolts of lightning." 1885. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Magnus, Charles,  1885. Courtesy Library of Congress. 

"New York. Bartholdi "Statue of Liberty," erected on Bedloe's Island, in New York Harbor By 

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